The topic of yesterday’s Osaka workshop and the one before that at Men’s workshop was “My Rules”. The idea was to sort out the behavioral norms that we are hardly aware of into “My Rules, Family Rules, and Social Rules” and share them with others.
By separating the norms that apply to you alone, the norms that your family should follow, and the norms that you follow in society, you will be able to gain self-insight into what norms you are using to act or limit your behavior. In addition, by discussing this with others, we can learn that these norms are actually different for each person and are quite subjective. Also, we can see that the couple has never discussed the norms with each other, and that one of them (mainly the husband) unilaterally imposes their own norms.
Of course, this is a general idea, and in fact, it is not a gender issue. The reality is that the family is maintained by those who have power in the family and impose their values, and the rest of the family accepts and follows the norms.
However, if the norms are inconvenient or painful for each family member, conflicts arise, hikikomori (withdrawal from society), self-harm, domestic violence, and moral harassment occur, and sometimes the situation becomes a case or pathology.
This is where most people come in contact with me. Many of the women have already consulted some counseling service, counselor, or sometimes a lawyer, and have been told that the other person is at fault and that they have no choice but to break up, but they have not received any advice to understand the nature of the problem or the way to solve it. In the case of men, they do not receive any support to help them deal with the nature of the problem. This is not surprising, since there is no restorative support for either the victim or the perpetrator.
When you talk to a teacher or a school counselor about parent-child problems, you may be given psychological support, but you are not given advice as a social pathology, and you are not likely to be advised not to be bound by the common sense of the world (the dominant story in the narrative therapy). That’s not surprising as well, since both teachers and counselors work within the framework of school education.
Fortunately for me, I am not a clinical psychologist, a licensed psychologist, a professor at some university, or an employee of a support facility. In other words, I’m not paid by anyone, I’m not controlled by any authority, and I’m completely free to do whatever I want.
Because I am like this, I am not bound by the common sense, legal system, ethics, or morality of the world. Therefore, I am free to tell an alternative story without being bound by the dominant story. Together we can weave a story that frees our clients from the various values of society and allows them to think and act freely. Sometimes I can even be an “accomplice.”
There are many common beliefs about family, such as marriage makes you happy, not having children makes you unhappy, divorce makes you feel sorry for your children, and so on. While informing the client that each of these is a family fantasy, we weave a story for recovery. The props for this are the “My Rules.”
It will help them to become aware of their own unconscious behavioral norms, and to understand that family conflicts and problems are actually caused by the lack of proper contracts.
Whether it’s building a house or buying a car, people sign a contract when they make a big commitment. They make various promises, such as the scope of burden and responsibility, the terms of the contract, and agreements regarding changes and termination of the contract. This is wisdom to prevent problems from occurring after the contract is made, and to minimize problems when they do occur.
However, when it comes to family, a marriage certificate is a completely blank contract. In fact, it is a very vague and unconscious contract in which various responsibilities arise, but there is no mention of the scope of those responsibilities. In my opinion, it is only natural that such a contract would cause trouble. It doesn’t matter who is good or bad.
If we are other people, we don’t have expectations that we understand each other because we are family or that we are supposed to be considerate. Since we are all strangers, we don’t expect too much from each other, and we are less likely to be hurt by a betrayal. But for some reason, we think of them as our family, and without even signing a contract, we expect and are betrayed, bind and are bound by them… This is what family is all about.
As an aside, almost half of all murders and assaults are committed by family members and relatives. The reason for this is because they are family (ref. https://jafarec.org/statistics/)
This is the kind of therapy that I offer: free yourself from this dangerous (?) family fantasy, think of your family as just another person, share your values and norms with each other, and make a mutually acceptable contract to create a truly equal and free family.
Originally posted on March 27, 2021
English text translated with DeepL (Japanese to English) and checked by Mina.